South Alexandria's Building Boom
It wasn’t long ago that a drive south down Route 1 from Old Town, Alexandria, meant an endless strip of motels, chain restaurants and outdated garden apartments. Then developers realized the neighborhood’s hidden gold mine: people.
Over 3,000 residential units and over 200k SF of retail space have recently been built or are under development along Route 1. (DSW, above, opened this spring.) Firms have been flocking to the area and breaking ground on mixed-use and multifamily projects for the large concentration of workers within a few miles, as well as Fairfax County's plans to widen Route 1, add bus rapid transit and extend Metro’s Yellow line two stops through the corridor.
Three federal agencies alone are bringing or have brought over 65,000 workers close to the corridor. Fort Belvoir, at one end, now has more active employees at 51,000 than the Pentagon’s 25,000. The Patent and Trademark Office, near the other end of the corridor in Old Town, has 10,000, and the National Science Foundation’s future home near PTO will have 4,200.
Combined Properties VP Randy Kenna says it was that concentration of employers within a 20-minute radius of the corridor that inspired his company to embark on South Alex, a $100M mixed-use project breaking ground in the fall. It'll include 19k SF of retail and restaurants, 25k SF for a specialty grocer, and 41 townhomes and 400 apartments. All of it's geared to people who want urban living and the convenience of the suburbs, Randy says.
Penrose and Community Housing Partners are also at the beginning stages of a large 15-acre project (above) on Route 1 in North Hill that proposes 329 affordable multifamily rentals and 144 for-sale townhomes. Other future projects along the corridor include Mount Vernon Gateway (500 units), Kings Crossing Phase 3 (350 units), Cityside Huntington Metro (145 units), Huntington Club Condos (1,200 residential units, 600k SF of office and 127k SF of retail) and Huntington Avenue at Biscayne Drive (141 residential units and 3,500 SF of retail).
Residents are flocking. Insight Property Group opened The Shelby, a 240-unit apartment project on North Kings Highway, less than a year ago. Partner Rebecca Snyder says it’s now fully leased, far exceeding the company’s expectations. Insight connected the project with the community by featuring local art throughout the building and hosting resident social events that showcase and support local businesses. The company would like to do another project in the corridor but hasn’t yet identified a site, she tells us.
For several years, the Southeast Fairfax Development Corp has been getting developers to notice the area, considered the oldest developed part of Fairfax County. Executive director Edythe Kelleher (right) says Route 1 flourished in its early days to service travelers needing a night in a motel and a cheap restaurant as they drove up or down the East Coast. New hotels along the corridor are attracting budget-conscious travelers, who want a nice place to stay while visiting Fort Belvoir or National Harbor.